Thursday 28 May 2020

Ithraa forum to focus on ‘shifts reshaping world of work’

MUSCAT, September 16, 2019

Ithraa, Oman’s inward investment and export development agency, said that the next edition of Inside Stories, a popular quarterly discussion forum organised by Ithraa, will explore the significant structural shifts currently reshaping the world of work.

The event entitled ‘Workplace of the Future: Employment But Not As You May Know It’, will take place on September 24, at the Public Authority for Civil Aviation Training Centre, in Oman.

Ishaq Al Busaidi, Ithraa’s marketing and media director general, and organiser of the Inside Stories program, said: “In the 1980s, Omani companies and the public sector were hiring typists and switchboard operators. Today, they’re recruiting software developers and data analysts.”

“We’re living in a world few could have imagined even 10 years ago – a world driven by technology, fuelled by information and powered by knowledge,” Al Busaidi said.

“It’s a complex topic and one that I’m sure our panel will relish getting to grips with,” he adds noting that it comprises Sayyid Dr. Adham Al Said, founder, The Firm (moderator); Dr Said Al Rubaii, secretary general, Education Council; Lamees Al Kindi, manager, Protiviti; Dr Fatma Al Balushi, director, Human Resources Management Systems Department, Ministry of Civil Service; Asma Al Ghabshi, Human Resources Consultant, Shell Development Oman; and Hilal Al Jadidi, consulting services director, Takatuf.

According to Al Busaidi, it is millennials, company structures, automation, globalisation, climate change, mobility, diversity and new attitudes that are all reshaping today’s workplace and how work gets done. And in this fast moving business environment “late adopter” is the same thing as “out of business.” Omani companies, he believes, no longer have the luxury of waiting to see what happens.

This diversity, combined with new attitudes and technological advances, is feeding demand for a more collaborative and flexible working environment. As a result, Omani companies aiming to attract and retain high-calibre talent, are flattening out and losing layers of management in favour of a more grid-like structure, where ideas flow along horizontal, vertical and diagonal paths.

In recent years, automation has also become increasingly prevalent. We think nothing of paying for parking via an app or transferring money internationally on a mobile phone. We have grown accustomed to calling devices in our home by name as we ask them for information and the idea of a future with self-driving cars.

As marvellous as these innovations are, they can also be destructive, rendering entire professions obsolete even as they boost productivity and convenience. A recent Oxford Martin School study estimated that 47 per cent of jobs in the US could be susceptible to computerisation over the next 20 years.

A McKinsey Global Institute report predicts that by 2025, robots could jeopardise between 40 million and 75 million jobs worldwide. And the UK’s Office for National Statistics says 70 per cent of the roles at high risk of automation are currently held by women. Part-timers and the young are the next most at risk.

“It’s not so much that robots are taking over, but that routine and repetitive tasks can be carried out more quickly and efficiently by an algorithm written by a human, or a machine designed for one specific function,” added Al Busaidi.

On a more personal note, Al Busaidi asks whether we have set the bar too high in our pursuit of passion and purpose. Can a job be so many things at once? A recent Gallup Poll found that no more than 13 per cent of US adults with full-time jobs found their work meaningful.

Priorities change over time, and as that happens, is it unrealistic to expect work to tick all the boxes? For example, if you have a young family and need a job that offers more flexible hours, it may be harder to find meaning and purpose in it. Sometimes, compensation or job function may be more important than meaning, while at other times location and flexibility may take precedence.

“Shouldn’t we be encouraging people to think more about all the things that matter to them in life and at work?” Asks Ithraa’s director general. Clearly, people can often get stuck thinking work is everything, rather than stepping back and asking “What kind of life do I want to live? How do I want to spend my time? And am I someone who wants to spend 60 hours a week in the office?”, it stated. – TradeArabia News Service


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